When my girls outgrew their childhood books I passed them on to my sister so that she could enjoy them with her girls.
She pointed out to me that they all had a similar theme.
Apparently, without being consciously aware of it before, I am a huge advocate of “being yourself.”
My personal favorite book is The Story of Ferdinand. Ferdinand was supposed to be a frightening and aggressive bull for the bull ring but he preferred sitting under the cork tree and smelling the flowers—definitely my kind of guy, and he was just being true to himself.
I had no idea that I was attracted to this theme at the time, but once my sister pointed it out to me it made a lot of sense.
Maybe that is why one of my favorite shows to watch is “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” the reality show where drag queens compete to win big in the end. I tend to shed a few tears at every episode. Okay, to be honest, I have sobbed uncontrollably a few times and I think I know why. These brave-hearted souls just want to be their authentic selves. Often, the ones they love the most do not honor, refusing to accept them for who they truly are and it breaks my heart.
Being ourselves goes hand in hand with loving ourselves, as we are.
It is one of the most important things we can do and one of the hardest. Loving ourselves is accepting ourselves for who we are. It is about doing our best at all times but knowing that our best can be different from someone else’s best. We do not all need to be the person climbing the corporate ladder, studying for a degree, or being that perfect parent.
Sometimes we don’t even really know who we are. I didn’t really begin to understand myself until my 30s. I was confusing who I was with who I thought I should be. As a kid, I loved myself unconditionally. Do you remember? We didn’t realize yet that there were rules that we had to play by. Then came middle school and I was hit with a ton a bricks. There are cool kids and not cool kids? I thought we were all cool!
After high school I skipped the college scene and went right into the workforce. This was such a blessing for me. I made friends and started to feel like I belonged to a group. But I was still trying to fit in because I wanted to be liked so badly that I conformed and adopted my new friends’ likes and interests.
When I became a mother my world changed again. Being a mother has been one of the best choices I have ever made. But, for a while, I saw myself only as a mother. That was the only thing I identified with and that made my world small.
Then I realized that I am so many things—things I really love. I am a hiker, a reader, a drag show reality show liker, a semi-vegetarian, a yoga loving, tree hugging, tarot card reading, part time actress, part time loner. It’s all me, and I love it all. I used to think we had to love in categories—love one thing and you cannot love another. Be one thing and you cannot be another. This is so restricting.
I am not totally sure how I changed my mind but I think it was a combination of things. May they be of benefit:
Extend beyond your comfort zone:
Becoming involved with a community theater production of Annie certainly helped. I always wanted to act but was terrified to try. I was cast as one of the maids and it changed my life. If I could break through my fear of being on stage then I could do anything.
Spend me with yourself:
Finding a belief system (any belief system) was also key for me. I read spiritual books and articles like mad. Having a reading by a wonderful medium and connecting with my father was also a life changer for me. Not only was it a beautiful experience but it also confirmed my beliefs. Maybe we can’t love ourselves until we are truly being all the wonderful things that we are. Wouldn’t it make sense if we can’t love what is not real?
Even the airline companies know you need to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. Why is this so hard for us? Why do we think we are being selfish if we choose what is best for us over what is best for others? I have been a people pleaser for most of my life. It devastates us if we think we have just let someone down or made them unhappy. Apparently we are powerful enough to affect other people’s happiness, or maybe we just think we are.
Find time to love and honor yourself:
Make it a priority to exercise both your body and your soul. Do what feels good and is good for you. Eat well—take care of the body that is housing you. Spend time with yourself, just yourself. Learn about you so you can love you.
Putting yourself first does not mean ignoring the needs of others. Take care of yourself and then by all means, take care of those around you. When you feel good about yourself you will feel better about others. Holding that love inside will allow it to come out and be enjoyed by everyone.
In the words of RuPaul, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love someone else?”
Author: Kerry Corlis
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren